9th Circuit Affirms Suppression in Baseball Steroid Use Investigation

For the third time, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the suppression of records in the Balco lab case.

A full 11-judge panel of the appeals court agreed to reconsider its August 2009 three-judge decision that the government violated the rights of players not covered by the search warrant and must return the confiscated drug-testing records to the Major League Baseball Players Assn. The appellate judges also upheld the lower-court rulings that all subpoenas issued as a result of the excessive seizure had to be quashed.

The illegally obtained evidence included results indicating that 104 Major League Baseball players had tested positive for steroid use during a 2003 confidential screening.

The opinion is here. [More...]

What the opinion didn't include: the guidelines from the August, 2009 opinion. Wired Magazine says today's opinion gutted the privacy protections in the prior opinions and bowed to the Obama Administration which sought their removal.

The original ruling required the government to cull specific data described in the search warrant, rather than copy entire hard drives. When that’s not possible, the feds were advised to use an independent third party under the court’s supervision, whose job it would be to comb through the files for the specific information, and provide it, and nothing else, to the government. The ruling said judges should “deny the warrant altogether” if the government does not consent to such a plan in data-search cases.

...Instead, the judges urged “greater vigilance on the part of judicial officers in striking the right balance between the government’s interest in law enforcement and the right of individuals to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The 9th Circuit said there will be no petitions for rehearing of today's decision. Which means it stands, unless one side appeals to the Supreme Court. Since the Obama Administration got what it wanted, the removal of mandatory guidelines for data searches, Wired says it's likely they won't appeal further.

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